Confidence men

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:59 AM ET

WASHINGTON -- The Calgary Flames know better than anyone that the Edmonton Oilers can pull it off - put together four, maybe even five wins on this trip.

The Flames took a similar journey a month ago and ran the table. They were slumping and in trouble at the time, then headed southeast and promptly posted six straight wins to vault right back into playoff contention.

"We got the first win and after that we kept rolling," said Kristian Huselius. "We got confident, everybody felt good. We followed our game plan. Everything came together and it kept going."

Calgary's trip consisted of Florida, Tampa and Carolina, as well as Western opponents Columbus, St. Louis and Chicago.

"Once we got that first win on the road it really helped our confidence as players and as a team," said Jarome Iginla. "We got stronger as the trip went on. That helps you in those close games. We had a lot of one goal games on that trip and we were winning them. It snowballed.

"Our energy guys - Eric Goddard, Mark Smith - really stepped up on that road trip and brought a lot."

A lot of Western teams have been feasting on the southeast lately. The Avs just went 3-1 on their tour, beating Carolina, Tampa and Florida after a loss in Washington.

Which makes this haul even more important for the Oilers.

"The other teams in our division have gone through and run the table," said Oilers coach Craig MacTavish. "It puts a lot of pressure on us to play well on this trip."

While the Southeast division might look like whipping boys of late, Huselius says the clubs out here are far from pushovers.

"There's no easy games in this league," he said. "If you think that way you're going to lose. We took it one step at a time, got a couple of big wins and once you take the first two, that's when you can get rolling. Confidence has a lot of impact in this game."

Not that he wishes the Oilers any luck.

"Not really," he said. "I think they can do fine, but I don't think I want to wish them any luck."

TIME RUNNING OUT: There will be 30 games left when Edmonton returns home for the All-Star break. If they're still five teams back of eighth, it's going to take a miracle.

"The experienced guys have been here long enough to know that the time is now to try and make up points," said Shawn Horcoff.

"We don't want to be five or six points out in late February and have to play almost perfect hockey in March to get into the playoffs. At the 20-game mark you have to be darn close because the teams ahead of you are going to be playing pretty good hockey at that point."

NYLANDER OUT: This was supposed to be the uncomfortable face to face between Michael Nylander and the Oilers, the team he agreed to sign with, then scorned at the last minute, but that won't happen now that Nylander is done for the season. He was scheduled for surgery to repair a torn left rotator cuff yesterday.

Nylander signed a four-year, $19.5-million contract with Washington as a free agent in July. He had 37 points, but was a team-worst minus 19.


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